In 2016-17 The Wellsville-Middletown varsity boys baseball team finished second in the state for class 1 and despite being winless is still ranked second because of all the talent it returned from a year ago.

That makes perfect senes when you also consider the squad had over $30,000 in upgrades done to its home field and its head coach Earl Burton is just as upbeat and positive as ever. The problem is the Tigers success has brought forward a whole lot of freshman that need time, attention and patience in order to improve. Combine that with a schedule that's been more erratic than most springs based on the weather's unpredictable nature and continuity is definitely lacking.

Now the squad has a whole bunch of challenges to prepare for, one of which is a visit from Elsberry on April 16 for an Eastern Missouri Conference showdown.

"We've got to start working on contact. We're overswinging, trying to hit the big bomb," said Earl Burton. "We need to do what we do best, which is get on base. Once we start causing a little heck, good things happen for us. When we strike out a lot, as a contact team, we have to work on not doing that and the other things will flow into position. We're a 1A school. We're decent with our pitching and our defense will develop as we go, so our strikeouts need to go so we can get our offense in order again."

When Wellsville-Middletown played at North Callaway on April 5, that was anything but indicative of what Earl Burton wants from his squad. Instead, during that contest the Tigers struck out 12 or 13 times, made three errors and had just two hits. This included Tyler Bunch and Isaac Ussery going 1-for-3.

On the mound in that game in an effort to expand it bullpen beyond just two pitchers Ussery didn't perform poorly, but because he got no support he took the loss after allowing one earned run on two hits in three innings. Ethan Burton is the hurler for the Tigers who took the most abuse, though, giving up two earned runs on one hit in a third of an inning prior to being replaced by Kollin McCoy, who got taken for two runs, zero earned, on two hits and two walks with one strikeout.

According to maxpreps.com, so far Elberry's best pitcher has been Mike Kelly, but also seeing time on the mound has been Kodi Thornhill and Stephen Boedeker. To a lesser degree Clayton Martin, Nick Stone and Trevor Anthony have gotten their turns to hurl for the Indians, as well, but only when the situation calls for their specific skill set.

At the plate for Elsberry, TJ Rockwell came out the gates looking strong. Jake Rimel has also gotten off to a good start for the Indians, as have pitchers Thornhill and Boedeker. Since Boedeker also has speed and a solid glove, look for him to be the one this team ends up relying on come tournament time.